Health and health care news

After the death last week of the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that the ACA was the law of the land for the foreseeable future. But that future is murky, with more reform attempts expected.

Gov. Paul LePage is blasting Republicans in Congress for not supporting House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Speaking on Bangor radio station WVOM, LePage called for a new state-chartered health insurer to make sure Mainers have access to coverage.

LePage said the failure of Congress to come up with a replacement to the ACA could leave Mainers in the lurch, with no health insurer left in the state.

The lack of support for the GOP health care bill has Maine consumer advocacy groups and health care providers breathing sighs of relief — for now.

Consumer and provider groups across the U.S., including many in Maine, opposed the Republican bill.

“I’m feeling relief for all of the people who would have lost their health insurance coverage if this bill had moved forward,” says Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

When faced with a terminal illness, some people might choose to fight it. But increasingly, doctors and patients are taking a different tack: Instead of creating a battle plan that focuses on the illness, they create an approach that emphasizes patient goals.

PORTLAND, Maine - An opioid addiction treatment program will occupy the space once used by the India Street Public Health Center in Portland.

The Portland Press Herald reports that Grace Street Recovery Services says it's moving its Auburn Street facility to India Street to help a larger number of addicts in the Portland area.

The organization offers medication-assisted treatment and intensive counseling at clinics in Portland, Lewiston and Sanford.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would establish a grant program to pay up to half the cost of jail-based drug treatment programs.

Saco Sen. Justin Chenette says his proposal has support from county sheriffs, including York Sheriff Bill King.

“Problem of addiction has evolved into a public health and public safety crisis. While enforcement and drug interdiction should certainly be a part of our response, our community members need treatment to combat their addiction,” King says.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., (m.), with Greg Walden, R-Ore., (r.), and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., (l), during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

A plan put forth by U.S. House Republican leaders to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting a mixed response from the members of Maine’s Congressional delegation, and from stakeholders closer to home.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

This story originally aired Thursday, March 2.

As we age, some of us may reach a point where we can no longer live independently. Assisted living is often the next step. While the typical assisted living model houses dozens of residents, there’s a growing trend to offer smaller, home-based alternatives.

A spike in patients caused Maine Medical Center to divert nonemergency ambulances from its Emergency Department this week.

Hospital spokesman Clay Holtzman says there’s no single cause for the increase in demand.

“Because the Medical Center has a significant number of double-occupancy rooms, and we see the sickest level of patients in the state, we have a reduced capacity to respond to sudden increases like we saw earlier this week in patient admissions,” he says.

As Congress deliberates the future of the Affordable Care Act, the issue is causing anxiety for some here in Maine — literally. Some therapists say they’re seeing a spike in patients with significant fears about losing health care coverage.

It was the middle of the night on Election Day when Ruth Dean woke up to check the results. They weren’t what she expected.

“When I saw that it was Trump, I burst into tears. And I started to say things like, ‘Oh no. Oh no. What’s going to happen to our health care?’” she says.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

According to AARP, the advocacy organization for older Americans, most seniors want to stay in their homes as they age. But they often need help to maintain their home and stay connected to their community.

With new state standards in place designed to reduce blood-lead levels in children, the City of Portland is urging landlords and homeowners to apply for help with lead abatement in their homes.

“Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation,” says Mary Davis with the City of Portland Housing and Community Development Division.

Davis says there’s no way to make a pre-1978 home absolutely free of lead, but funds from a newly acquired, three-year federal Housing and Urban Development grant can help make older homes more “lead safe.”

The Maine Board of Dental Practice has temporarily suspended the license of Lewiston dentist Dr. Jan Kippax after it says he put the health and safety of his patients and staff in immediate jeopardy.

Brian Bechard / Maine Public

More and more, people are working later in life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that Americans age 65 and over have shown the most growth in employment in recent years - a trend that’s expected to continue.

Environmental and health advocates in Maine are urging lawmakers to support a bill that would require schools on public water systems to test for lead. Currently, only schools that draw water from nonpublic sources, such as wells, must test.

Schools on public water systems are exempt from the testing requirement because the municipalities already tests for lead. But that can be a problem, says Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Millett, because that won’t necessarily reveal when there’s a localized problem.